Although one major national organization Tuesday decided to shut down its tournament because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, all of the heads of the groups in charge of baseball and softball throughout the area are going full steam ahead with plans to have a season.
The Americanism Commission of the American Legion, in consultation with national commander James William “Bill” Oxford, anounced the cancellation of all eight regional tournaments as well as the World Series for this year because of COVID-19. However, the national organization left it in the hands of leaders at the local level to make determinations on their seasons.
The person in charge of American Legion baseball in the state of Idaho, Abe Abrahamson, said in an interview with the Tribune that the hope is a season will take place despite the fact it currently is postponed.
“What we’re hoping to do is either have a May-June-July season, or a June-July-first part of August season,” said Abrahamson, who also noted because of the regional and national tournaments being canceled, there no longer is a drop-dead date for when state play has to be concluded. “We’re still planning on holding district tournaments for the Single-A (freshmen to juniors in high schools) and Double-A (juniors in high school to college freshmen) tournaments.”
Meanwhile in Babe Ruth baseball, president of the Lewis Clark Babe Ruth organization, Cissy Pea, confirmed with the Tribune the organization is in a holding pattern with registrations until April 17 to comply with what the national organization is recommending. Pea said this is something that could trigger a trickle-down effect.
“I’m betting that something could come out sooner since the Legion has made a decision,” said Pea, who noted if they can’t get a season going by mid-May there will not be a season because she’s got kids from Idaho and Washington that play in the league. “I’ve had several 12-year-olds reach out to (inquire about interest) and I’ve said that we are all in the same boat as every league. Safety first, so there’s quite a few people in search and looking for baseball.”
As far as Lewiston Little League, first-year president Autumn Cann said she is following the recommendations Little League International has placed, in consultation with the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control, which is a suspension of all activities through no earlier than May 11.
“We’re working with our district, the Western district ... to make that decision,” Cann said. “Our district administrator for the state of Idaho is meeting with them weekly to monitor the situation and make those decisions. The rest of Idaho will follow their recommendation.”
This year’s American Legion Northwest Region tournament was to be Aug. 5-9 in Gillette, Wyo., while the World Series was set to take place Aug. 13-18 in Shelby, N.C. Idaho Falls Post 56 won last year’s regional, which took place at Lewis-Clark State College’s Harris Field, then won the World Series.
Between all three leagues American Legion conducts throughout Idaho, which includes B-level teams (13- to 16-year-olds) there were a total of 123 teams in 2019.
The directors of the state are going to conduct a conference call May 1 and will revisit the postponement at that time. Abrahamson said there is no official date for when the postponement would be lifted, but he did note one team already had canceled their season and was flooded with more than 600 comments on their Facebook page in about a two-hour time period.
“I’m very optimistic we get to play a season, whether its a full season or a condensed season,” Abrahamson said.
The biggest reason Abrahamson wants to get some semblance of a season in the books is for the group of seniors, who might not get a chance to play at the high school level this year. Currently, the Idaho High School Activities Association has not outright canceled the season, but there’s a possibility it could happen. The Idaho State Board of Education on Monday extended its “soft closure” of schools through the end of the year, but individual school districts can re-open their doors based on consulation with local departments of health. The IHSAA is looking for guidance from the state board on that, but the parameters of that will not be revealed until the next board meeting, which will take place Monday.
“You have a lot of senior kids that play baseball, and a lot of college scouts look at them in their senior year, so they didn’t get a chance to be seen,” Abrahamson said. “So we are heavily involved with a lot of the college scouts in the Northwest, so we want to give our kids a chance to be seen by those colleges to hopefully to get them to play at the next level.”
Patti Meshinshnek, president of the Lewis-Clark American Legion Baseball Executive Board, which oversees the Twins and the Cubs, the Double-A and Single-A level teams Post 13 fields, said they could wait as long as the middle of May before some kind of decision would have to be made.
“As far as the local program and our board goes, our intention was to go just as if we were going to play ball come June 1, as far our fundraising, our scheduling, our uniform prepping, just getting everything ready,” Meshinshnek said. “We have all of our coaches in place. So our statement as a board is we were optimistic we are going to get to play ball.
“Our biggest problem right now is we’re right in the middle of procuring money for the season. Whether it be asking for advertisments in our program, or any type of donations or sponsorships, its just really difficult ... we want to go and do that but with a guarantee that (people who donate) will get their money back if we don’t have a season.”
One of the challenges facing not just American Legion baseball, but Babe Ruth baseball as well, is where they will play their games. Most of those games take place on high school fields (the Twins and Cubs play their games at Harris Field) and because those fields fall under school district jurisdiction, teams in those two organizations might have a hard time find places to play on short notice.
An example of this is the first-year B-level team Lewis-Clark Post 13 is unveiling this season, which currently is scheduled to play teams from the Spokane region. Meshinshnek said that could present problems but the goal still would be to move forward with the team for this year.
“With states cancelling schools and where we use a lot of fields that are school-entities, I don’t see how we can (play),” said Pea, who said that Babe Ruth here uses Church Field at Lewiston High School as well as using fields that fall under city jurisdiction. “It’s kind of out of my hands.”
Cann is optimistic by nature and thinks Little League will get games in this spring.
“I’m really hopeful that we can make it happen,” said Cann, who said if the season is canceled those who have paid will be refunded their money in full. “Little League International is trying to have us be as flexible as possible to get as many games in, or try to have a season if we can at all. We’re fairly lucky that we have such great weather here in Lewiston and that we have flexibility with fields. Not everyone has that luxury in the other districts. So we’re pretty optimistic that we can make something happen. But it’s going to depend on things progress over the next four weeks.”
Cann said late registration deadline for farm and T-ball is Friday. Majors and minors are closed.
Walden may be reached at (208) 848-2258, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @waldo9939.